Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Three Novellas; by Thomas Bernhard

Three Novellas; by Thomas Bernhard;
Peter Jansen (Translator), Kenneth J. Northcott (Translator)
Brian Evenson (Foreword)
University of Chicago Press, 1989, 174 pages.
Copy from local community college library.

The book jacket features a quote from a Los Angeles Times review by  Thomas McGonigle  which includes the sentence "Reading a book by Bernhard is a painful and frightening experience."

Consider yourself warned.

It is difficult to read, both in content and form.  The stories are stream of consciousness, first person, and, in the second two stories, no paragraphs. There is dark comedy as we descend into madness, but it takes a very careful reading to appreciate it.

The first novella, Amras, concerns two brothers hiding out in a tower after the suicide of their impoverished parents. The brothers are survivors of a family suicide pact. Compared to the other two novellas, it is fairly straightforward and not to difficult to read.

The other two novellas, Playing Watten and Walking, are maddening to read. Even though they are short (48 and 60 pages), the lack of paragraphs and the often complex sentences make them non-stop tours de force into the minds of their narrators. It also makes it difficult to pull out a quote that can stand alone. The  writing is glorious, flowing (I almost drowned in it), overwhelming and rewarding if you can stick with it.

The introduction is helpful as it explains the Tyrolian politics in the background of these stories.


  1. Thomas Bernhard is challenging. I've read something else by him but can't remember the title right now.
    THis wouldn't be for me at the moment but maybe at another time.

  2. It was hard work, but worth it.

  3. This is a new to me writer I feel I need to read. Thanks for sharing your reaction.

  4. If you want a sample, there is an excerpt from Walking at

  5. Consider yourself warned... I liked that! Yes, Thomas Bernhard has that effect - the obliqueness, the experimentation, he just can't seem to say something straight off. Glad you managed to enjoy it nevertheless!

  6. Thanks for stopping by. This is a book to re-read. I'll have to get my own copy.